Thursday, January 6, 2011

Re: George Ryan

This morning, former Illinois Governor George Ryan was a hot topic on WLS talk shows. Don Wade and Roma (our personal favs) were quite divided on the issue of whether or not the 76-year-old Ryan should be allowed to attend the sickbed of his wife of 50 plus years. The former governor was given a 78-month prison sentence (he has served about 38 of them) following a jury's guilty verdict on a 22-count federal indictment for racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax fraud and, of course, lying to investigators. Here is our perspective on the current scenario:

First, let it be said that crime very often causes a great deal of harm and suffering. It wrecks neighborhoods, destroys families, hinders economic development, launches individuals into emotional trauma and, many times, a lifetime of economic despair. Inevitably, along the way, innocent persons (victims, family members, friends) are affected negatively. That is what crime does. That is what it has always done. That is what it always will do. In a certain sense, George Ryan's suffering is not much different (much less significantly greater) than any of the 200,000 plus persons currently housed in federal prisons. There are, however, some important idiosyncrasies of his case that can (but should not be) lost in analyses that focus heavily on the suffering of Mrs. Ryan. It should be remembered, for example that:

1. George Ryan did not plead guilty. The eight-year federal probe of his behavior and the year-and-a-half trial that followed cost millions of dollars that no one really had to spend.

2. After his conviction, in April of 2006 (on all counts), Ryan was completely defiant, claiming that he did nothing wrong and that he had a "clear conscience." He maintained this position when he was sentenced in September of 2006, when he lost an appeal in the 7th Circuit in August of 2007 and when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a further appeal the following November.

3. Sticking to his story, even as he walked into prison in November of 2007, Ryan immediately went for the home run, testing the political waters for the possibility of a full and complete presidential pardon from fellow Republican George W. Bush.

4. When Ryan finally decided to be less ambitious, and apply for a mere commutation of sentence, he waited one year - or just 12 months into his 78 month sentence.

5. Ryan's clemency application emphasized poor health (sound familiar?) and it was filed just before Christmas (2008), revealing a brazen desire that extra-legal sentiment would affect Bush's decision making. 2009 brought an even more brazen attempt at "Christmas clemency."

6. While it was patently obvious to everyone (and federal statutes) that Ryan's search for a presidential pardon, and even a commutation of sentence, was a complete train-wreck absent any public acceptance / admission of guilt or expression of remorse, it required a "long journey" for Ryan to understand that point. Actually, he issued a public statement (after his clemency application was filed) "apologizing" for the fact that he simply made some "mistakes" and did "less than" his "best." He all but added, "so hang me already!" Many were not impressed.

7. Even as his wife has suffered, the first instinct of Ryan and his lawyers (back in February of 2010) was to engage in over-reach. Instead of simply applying for some form of temporary release from prison officials, they immediately aimed to use her suffering as a means to spring him from prison altogether (via commutation of sentence). Only now, do we see Ryan taking the more reasonable approach. Who knows how much time he might have already spent with her had he put her interests before his own?

In sum, George Ryan is largely responsible not only for his entrance into prison, but also for the difficult road before him that will lead him on the way out. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said it best, as Ryan strutted his way into prison: "To expect sympathy I don't think is appropriate because of what he did for so long and how it damaged the state and the harm that it's caused. So it's a sad thing, but it's brought about by his own actions."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there are so many people behind bars that lose loved ones everyday, those folks do not get out to spend time with thier love one before the death..I do have lots of compassion for people but if you are going to let one person out for something like this then you have to let everyone be with thier love one before death...If anything,RYAN should be held to a higher standard,since he was a leader, and needs to do his time and stop crying about it..Ryan-"IF YOU DO THE CRIME THEN DO THE TIME",,I had to do my time when I wrote a bad check..They did not let me out early, and you should have to do yours..

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